GMPA

Scottish government holds anti-poverty summit

No comments

By Laura Burgess, Senior Policy and Research Advisor at GMPA

Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, hosted a landmark cross-party, cross-sector anti-poverty summit in Edinburgh on Wednesday 3 May.  

The First Minister, who set tackling poverty as a defining priority of his government during his campaign for SNP leadership, brought together campaigners, political parties, people with lived experience of poverty and other key stakeholders to discuss action needed to tackle inequality in Scotland.

Describing ending poverty as his government’s “single biggest challenge”, the First Minister urged realism in tackling poverty and suggested ministers must focus on targeted interventions instead of universal provision. This was met with backlash from some campaigners after the suggestion that tight budget constraints could mean a move away from policies such as universal free school meals, but Yousaf insisted the Scottish Government “must be bold in considering future tax decisions”.

The summit came just weeks after a conference hosted jointly by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and the Trussell Trust called “A Cash First Future” at the end of March. This conference succeeded in demonstrating that a move away from food banks and other in-kind support was not just a dream but becoming a reality across many parts of Scotland, where plenty of local and national cash-first approaches are already underway.

It is disappointing, however that at a summit focused on anti-poverty work and hosted by the Scottish government, no mention was made of the Scottish government’s draft plan to end the need for foodbanks, developed after receiving over 400 consultation responses.

Third-sector leaders have urged the Scottish Government to adopt a systemic approach to policymaking on poverty eradication and with a coinciding report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealing seven out of ten Scots have cut back on essentials in the last six months, it is crucial that a robust outlook on tackling poverty is adopted north of the border.

From a Greater Manchester perspective, it is heartening to see a leader address the issue of poverty head on and recognise their government’s role as the figurehead in tackling poverty and working towards a fairer and more just society. Whilst Scotland is ahead of the Westminster government on statutory anti-poverty targets, contained in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, it is evident that the Scottish government, along with Westminster, must be the standard-bearers of anti-poverty work and embed eradicating poverty across all areas of government.

Local authorities must be required to implement robust strategic responses to poverty and the voices of those with lived experience should be considered in all anti-poverty work.

i3oz9sScottish government holds anti-poverty summit
read more

New policy briefing published: Household Support Fund

No comments

By Penny Rimmer, Policy Officer at GMPA

The Covid-19 pandemic and Cost-of-living Crisis have heightened the importance of local authorities in responding to their residents’ financial needs.

The Household Support Fund (HSF) was first introduced in October 2021 and has provided £2 billion to local authorities to support essential costs related to energy, food, water, and wider spending needs.

In November 2022, the government announced in the Autumn Statement that HSF would be extended for the fourth time. Funding worth £842 million is being given to local authorities which can be spent between 1 April 2023 and 1 March 2024 (£53.8 million has been given to Greater Manchester’s councils).  The latest government guidance offers further opportunities for local authorities to deliver the scheme more flexibly and innovatively.

At GMPA, we welcome the additional funding and have published a new ‘Household Support Fund: best practice briefing’ to support local authorities to ensure the funding is used as effectively as possible. We draw primarily on our ongoing advocacy and support to local authorities in response to hardship funding provided by central government since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic , as well as on our research on local welfare assistance schemes.

We provide key recommendations for local authorities to consider when developing and implementing their schemes:

  • Take a cash-first approach to the delivery of the HSF to maximise choice, flexibility, and dignity for people.
  • Ensure the HSF is linked to holistic support to help residents through advice-based services.
  • Make the HSF application process as simple and efficient as possible.
  • Ensure that residents can apply for the HSF scheme through a variety of ways.
  • Identify and target households who may need support using local-level data.
  • Relax eligibility criteria so it is sufficiently flexible to support those in genuine need and crisis.
  • Promote the HSF widely to the local community working in partnership with key local partners.

The HSF will go some way to support residents experiencing or at risk of financial hardship. However, mounting financial pressures on households across the country mean that the level and ad-hoc nature of the funding are inadequate to meet the demand for support.

Local authorities should continue to advocate for a properly resourced local welfare provision with long-term funding arrangements building on the national recognition of the HSF.

If you work in or with local authorities and would like further information about this briefing or support in allocating the funding, please get in touch

i3oz9sNew policy briefing published: Household Support Fund
read more

GMPA launch VCSE anti-poverty forum

No comments

By Aisha Muhammed, Public Policy Officer at GMPA

On Wednesday 3 May, GMPA launched the Greater Manchester VCSE Anti-Poverty Forum.

The forum has been established under the delivery of the Greater Manchester VCSE Accord to build on existing strengths of VCSE sector across the ten boroughs.

It seeks to create a VCSE ecosystem that recognises the value of the sector beyond ‘crisis responses’ to poverty in these increasingly challenging times.

The anti-poverty forum brings together VCSE organisations from across the city-region to share their experiences and expertise, discuss challenges, and organise strategic and policy development and influence in the fight against poverty, creating a powerful VCSE sector voice on an array of pressing topics – from the need of a cash-first approach to welfare provision, to the advocacy of the Living Wage Campaign.

For more information on the forum, please get in touch.

i3oz9sGMPA launch VCSE anti-poverty forum
read more

Taking GMPA’s work to Parliament

No comments

By Graham Whitham CEO, GMPA

Last Thursday Greater Manchester Poverty Action held our first event in London as we took our report, Local anti-poverty strategies: Good practice and effective approaches to Parliament.

We were joined in a packed Jubilee Room by national think tanks and NGOs, London based councils and VCSE sector organisations and members of our Greater Manchester network.

At the event we talked through the report findings. Our Senior Policy and Research Advisor Laura Burgess emphasised why it is more important than ever to support localities to introduce impactful approaches to tackling poverty. Our Policy Officer,  Penny Rimmer introduced the findings and recommendations from the report.

Laura at Westminster Hall for GM Poverty Action

Laura Burgess at Westminster Hall, Parliament

Penny was then joined by Sabine Goodwin from the Independent Food Aid Network, Claudia Sumner from Child Poverty Action Group and Steph Lloyd from the public affairs company Lexington to discuss the report findings and the need to win the argument on poverty both locally and nationally. There were some great questions and contributions from the audience, covering issues around cash-first approaches and the ensuring people with lived experience are supported to influence local policy and practice.

A big thank you to Andrew Western MP for sponsoring and opening the event, and to Baroness Ruth Lister, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, who gave her reflections on the discussion.

We know there’s more to be done to support localities in the fight against poverty in Greater Manchester, but we’re also determined that our work has impact across the country.

Click download the report and access other resources click here.

 

i3oz9sTaking GMPA’s work to Parliament
read more

Fuel Poverty – coping with an impossible situation.

No comments

Coping with an impossible situation: How organisations and individuals are struggling to respond to the fuel poverty crisis in Greater Manchester
By Anna Lopez, GMPA Policy & Research Assistant

The cost-of-living crisis is forcing ever greater numbers of people into fuel poverty. In Greater Manchester  (GM)and across the UK, skyrocketing energy and food prices are impacting on individuals on low incomes and the organisations that seek to support them.

GMPA’s new report, published last week, explores the impacts of rising fuel poverty across the city region. It relies on research collected over the latest winter and seeks to lay bare the extent of fuel poverty in GM. Its findings include that fuel poverty appears to be rising across the city region, with demand for support increasing significantly since the same period last year; high energy costs are negatively impacting the daily lives and health of people living on low incomes in GM and organisations that provide support to people on low incomes in GM are unable to meet demand, with the majority surveyed being forced to turn people away due to a lack of capacity or resources.

Fuel poverty -warm this winter infographics for GM Poverty ActionRising Fuel Poverty  
From our survey we found that 77% of those working for organisations supporting people in poverty said their organisation was unable to meet all the requests for help that it received due to limited capacity or resources. Many also reported difficulties referring clients to other providers which could support them. As a results, people in need of support risk being bounced between organisations, further increasing barriers to accessing help.

Impacts of Fuel Poverty 
Our research suggests that rising energy bills have significant impacts on low income households. Research participants spoke of fuel poverty impacting on their daily lives and mental and physical health. Among the effects listed were pervasive worry and stress, constant cold, difficulty sleeping and physical tension. Rising bills also impacted on some participants’ ability to afford ‘little extras’, such as days out with their children or celebrating holidays in the way they would have liked to.

Recommendations for local and national government
This report aims not only to explore the challenges facing people on low incomes and the organisations that support them, but also to consider ways forward. These recommendations, advised by survey respondents and focus group participants, focus on immediate financial support to households, improved signposting of places to access help and a wider strategic focus on poverty at a local and national level.

In addition, the report suggested a number of specific priorities for local and national government to tackle fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty -warm this winter infographics for GM Poverty Action

Priorities for Local Authorities

  • Direct financial support for individuals.
  • Council co-ordination of VCSE sector delivered support in GM.
  • Improved signposting to advice and support.
  • Ensuring council support is accessible without internet access.
  • Provision of welfare rights and debt advice.

Priorities for National Government

  • Direct financial support for individuals.
  • Cap on energy prices.
  • Installation of energy saving measures in homes.
  • Alternative energy generation.
  • Provision of advice to households.
  • Regulation of the housing sector.

Rising fuel poverty is a significant issue across Greater Manchester, damaging the health and daily lives of people on low incomes while overstretching the VCSE sector in the city region. Despite the increases seen thus far, fuel poverty, and poverty in general, can be tackled, and there has never been a more urgent time to do so.

 

i3oz9sFuel Poverty – coping with an impossible situation.
read more

Government HBAI Statistics Released

No comments

By Aisha Muhammad, GMPA Public Policy Officer

On March 23rd, 2023, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released their annual Households Below Average Income (HBAI) report. The report details the number of people experiencing poverty in the UK for the year up to the end of March 2022.

The key findings highlight an increase in relative poverty (the main measure of poverty used by GMPA, government and campaigners), with 14.4 million people living in relative low-income (after household cost are taken into account – referred to as ‘AHC’) between April 2021 and March 2022. A total of 8.1 million working-age adults were living in relative poverty (AHC) – an increase from 2.1 million the previous year – with those in families where no one is in work being more likely to be in poverty (38%) than those where at least one person is in work (10%).

The percentage of pensioners in relative poverty (AHC) increased to 18% – with 2.1 million pensioners living in below the poverty line. This continues an upward trend in relative poverty for pensioners seen over recent years.

HBAI statistics report for GM Poverty ActionJust under three in ten children (29%) in the UK were living in relative poverty, 4.2 million children in total (an increase of 350,000 on the previous year). This large increase is, in part, likely to have been driven by the ending of the £20 Universal Credit uplift in October 2021. Of the number of children facing poverty, the majority (71%) were living families where at least one adult is in work.

The statistics illustrate what many organisations are seeing on the ground, with certain family types accounting for large proportions of those experiencing poverty. For example, among children experiencing poverty, 44% were in lone parent families, 42% were in families with 3 or more children, and 36% in families where someone has a disability

The reports details some of the experiences and consequences of poverty across the UK. Children in relative poverty were identified to be less likely to live in a ‘food secure household’ compared with working-age adults and pensioners in low-income households, highlighted by the report findings that 800,000 children lived in households that needed food from a foodbank between 2021-2022.  An estimated 750,000 pensioners were identified in a state of material deprivation.

The report identified disparities based on ethnicity; 47% of children from Asian and British Asian families, 53% of children from Black/African/Caribbean and Black British families, and 25% of children in White families were living in poverty.

Aisha Muhammad for GM Poverty Action

Aisha Muhammad

These statistics are stark and concerning. Whilst the government recognises that poverty rates are increasing, there is still no appetite for meaningful strategic action on poverty in Westminster. Governments, both national and local, must implement robust responses to poverty with a key focus on boosting household income and prioritising cash over other forms of welfare support.

The full report ‘Households Below Average Income: An Analysis of the UK Income Distribution: FYE 1995 to FYE 2022’ can be accessed here.

 

i3oz9sGovernment HBAI Statistics Released
read more

Fuel Poverty

No comments

Save the date: Fuel poverty in Greater Manchester March 30th 2023

Coinciding with the launch of our new report, Warm this Winter, on Thursday March 30th, 2023, GMPA will be holding an online event exploring fuel poverty in Greater Manchester. This event will discuss the findings of qualitative and quantitative research conducted by GMPA into experiences of fuel poverty across Greater Manchester, both among those living on low incomes and in GM’s VCSE sector. It will also consider ways forward, outlining the suggestions put forward by our network and those of people with lived experience of poverty.

Fuel poverty bar chart event March 23 for GM Poverty ActionThe findings detailed in our report reflect wider trends towards increasing economic precarity and hardship among people on low incomes. Our research shows that the impacts of fuel poverty are wide ranging and significant, with detrimental effects on physical and mental health, as well as on quality of life. Local organisations are also struggling to cope with rising need, with 98% of our survey respondents who work within organisations that support people in poverty having experienced increased demand since the same time last year.

With the rising cost-of-living making it harder for people to afford their fuel bills, we’ll be inviting you to attend our virtual event on March 30th where we’ll be presenting the research findings and discussing where we can go from here. Please keep a look out for details of how to book onto the event next week.

 

i3oz9sFuel Poverty
read more

Money Matters March 2023

No comments

Boosting household incomes with Money Matters

GMPA’s Money Matters programme has so far helped Trafford and Manchester families to gain more than £100,000 in household income.

Money Matters has been running since last June in partnership with Citizens Advice SORT (Stockport, Oldham Rochdale and Trafford), with a Financial Inclusion Officer providing debt and benefit advice via local schools. The programme has now grown to supporting families in eight schools, reaching them via newsletters, classroom update apps and events such as parents’ evenings.

Support for families has included help with budgeting, applying for grants to buy essential items such as cookers and beds, and clearing utility debts. Most of the £100,000 income gain has come from ongoing benefits support, which means that the cumulative impact of this work will be even higher.

Money Matters is already confirming that having access to effective support is crucial for families living in poverty or at risk of being affected by poverty. In one example, a family was identified as missing out on nearly £1000 per month of eligible benefits, a “life-changing” amount according to the parent who contacted us.

Not every family who engages with Money Matters is eligible for further support, however this approach of reaching people via school settings has proven the difference that it can make. This is particularly the case when we engage with families who are being forced to make difficult budgeting decisions, and advice services across the UK, including Citizens Advice, are reporting unprecedented demand.

Elaine Riozzi for GM Poverty Action

Elaine Riozzi

We would like to thank our Financial Inclusion Officer, Elaine Riozzi for her commitment to Money Matters. Elaine was on secondment with GMPA and has now returned to a role within Citizens Advice SORT.

We would therefore like to welcome our new Financial Inclusion Officer, Manjeet McCartney to her role. Manjeet is also joining us from Citizens Advice SORT, with significant experience in providing debt and benefit advice.

There will be further updates on the Money Matters programme in future newsletters. We will also be conducting a formal evaluation of the programme over the summer, before sharing the findings from this via our network and partners.

We would like to thank Kellogg’s for their continued support of Money Matters, and all partners who are helping to make this work possible, including Citizens Advice SORT and local schools.

 

i3oz9sMoney Matters March 2023
read more

Expanding the MARTs

No comments

By Jon Sands, Programme Officer

MARTs Infographic for GM Poverty ActionPoverty can be split up by category, for example food poverty or fuel poverty, but the underlying cause is always a lack of money. While direct emergency assistance, such as a food bank parcel is often essential, it is not a long-term solution to a person’s financial difficulties. The aim of the Money Advice Referral Tools (MARTs) is to help identify appropriate, expert organisations to refer people struggling financially to, in order to maximise their income and reduce their need for emergency assistance in the future.

The MARTs are designed to guide you through a conversation with a person about their financial difficulties. They funnel down the options at each stage of the conversation, leaving you with simpler choices to make referrals to the most appropriate organisations for the person’s particular circumstances. The MART can help with making referrals to maximise income, better manage debts or address issues that may have caused or compounded financial difficulties, such as mental health, without you needing to be an expert in these areas.

There have been MARTs successfully running in Tameside and Oldham for more than a year, being used by various organisations and professionals who engage with people living in poverty. This includes the Oldham Doorstep Engagement Team, who described the MART as their “go-to-toolkit” and “best practice”.

At GMPA we have been working in recent months with partners in other localities – Bury, Manchester, Trafford and Wigan – to develop new MARTs and expand the impact of these in Greater Manchester. Each of them has been developed with feedback from local partners, as well as meaningful engagement with people with lived experience of poverty. Stockport Council have also developed a Stockport Money Advice Referral Tool, using the GMPA model.

The MART section of the GMPA website contains each of the six current MARTs, with paper versions of these also available in localities. The web page also has a short introductory video and user guide to assist with maximising the potential of the MARTs. In the first few weeks of the new MARTs being launched, they were downloaded more than 100 times and we are regularly hearing about their use in communities.

GMPA is encouraging users of the MARTs to monitor their effectiveness and impact by tracking how they use the Tools. This involves two small actions when you use the MART to make a referral:

•  Let the organisation you are referring the person to know that you have used the MART

•  Complete a short monitoring form on the MART web page which takes around 30 seconds to complete.

MARTs may be suitable for use by any organisation or professional that engages with people struggling financially but does not have the expertise to give assistance on maximising income themselves. GMPA has been directly contacting a range of organisations to make them aware of the MARTs, including food banks and referrers into food banks, housing associations, school pastoral staff and health service organisations, and will continue to do so.

We would like to thank the Trussell Trust for their continued support in making it possible to expand the reach and impact of the Money Advice Referral Tools. There are other examples of initiatives similar to the MART across the UK. These include ‘A Menu for Change’ in Scotland and the ‘Worrying About Money?’ leaflets initiated by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN).

For more information about the Money Advice Referral Tool, please contact our Programme Officer Jon Sands.

 

i3oz9sExpanding the MARTs
read more

Review of 2022

No comments

Graham Whitham, Chief Executive Officer, GMPA

This has been a challenging year for the fight against poverty, with factors outside of our control here in Greater Manchester acting to squeeze incomes and put more households at risk of financial hardship. As we have been saying all along, there has been a poverty crisis in our city region and other parts of the UK for years. For many, the cost-of-living crisis is compounding an already dire situation in which it is impossible to make-ends-meet. We have seen first hand this year, just how challenging things are for people.

In spite of these challenges, Greater Manchester continues to step up. We now have well over 500 accredited Real Living Wage employers in the city-region – a fact we celebrated during Living Wage Week in November.

There’s more political will to tackle poverty than ever, with more of our ten councils working with partners to introduce anti-poverty strategies.  We’ve been pleased to see Bury Council, among others, adopting many of our recommendations in their strategy. Others, such as Salford and Tameside councils are voluntarily adopting the socio-economic duty, something GMPA is encouraging all public bodies to do. The duty is all about understanding the impact of decisions on people experiencing poverty.

Effective implementation of the socio-economic duty requires organisations to take into account the views, experiences, expertise and perspectives of people with lived experience of socio-economic disadvantage. Doing this effectively means going further than simply consulting people. Poverty Truth Commissions are a positive way of embedding the principles of meaningful engagement and we have been proud to run the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission (TPTC), which came to and end in November, at GMPA. You can read more about the TPTC and the recommendations coming out of it later in this newsletter.

There has also been growing interest in the ‘cash-first’ approach to poverty that GMPA and others, including the Independent Food Aid Network and Trussell Trust, have been advocating for. This means defaulting to giving people on a low income money as opposed to ‘in-kind’ support such as food parcels and energy vouchers. We know that this is the most effective way of supporting someone experiencing or at risk of financial hardship. It has been good to see Wigan and Oldham councils, among others, championing this approach.

On this theme, our Cost-of-living Crisis Conference in October brought over 100 delegates from across the city region and 30 speakers from across the UK together to focus on local and practical monetary response to poverty. As well as exploring cash-first approaches, sessions focussed on benefit uptake, the Real Living Wage and supporting people to avoid problem debt.

At GMPA, we have continued to grow the team so we’re better able to support the fight against poverty across the city-region. Our programme offer in 2022 has included Money Matters. Money Matters is piloting the provision of benefits and debt advice in schools. It is helping us to reach dozens of parents in the Stretford area who might otherwise not have sought help. The financial gains (i.e. through additional benefits claimed) we have secured for parents through Money Matters currently stands at £50,000, with several months of the programme left to run.

We have also expanded our Money Advice Referral Tool (already in place in Oldham and Tameside) programme to a further four boroughs (Bury, Manchester, Trafford and Wigan). The Tool describes all the places that people can go for advice and other income maximisation support.

We have seen the difference the toolkit makes for organisations and service users. For example, a frontline family intervention worker in Tameside had been working with a client who is not allowed to hold a bank account presently. Through utilising the toolkit, the family intervention worker was able to refer the client to an organisation that could support her. In doing so, she disclosed she struggled with debt problems, and using the toolkit the family intervention worker was able to facilitate debt reconciliation.

Throughout 2022 we have continued to support the network with our regular newsletters. In addition, one of our biggest activities this year has been the launch of the Greater Manchester Poverty Monitor 2022. This resource details statistics relating to poverty from across the city region. Where possible, data is presented at a ward or neighbourhood level. We know organisations have been using this data to make a case for their services, target support and residents and inform funding bids. Supporting the network in this way is central to what we do – please keep letting us know how you are using the Monitor.

Finally, GMPA, along with others, continue to make our voice heard on the need for national action to end poverty. This includes increasingly raising our voice in the media.

We know that to end poverty in Greater Manchester will require action from national government. It is not sustainable to have millions of people struggling to afford food or put the heating on. Nor is it sustainable to expect charities and local public sector organisations to pick up the pieces. Regardless of what is happening with inflation or the wider economy, everyone should be able to afford a decent standard of living year in, year out. It should be a national ambition, led by central government to make that a reality.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

With best wishes for the festive season and for 2023.

Graham and the team at GMPA

 

i3oz9sReview of 2022
read more